I’m sure you have already heard of the power of positive thinking and of the placebo effect, but have you heard of the nocebo effect? Erik Vance, the author of Suggestible You: The Curious Science of Your Brain’s Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal, says, “Nocebos are probably more powerful than placebos. All the evidence we have is that they’re easier to create, and they last longer.” (Onbeing podcast) If the placebo effect is believing that something will help you and then it actually does, then the nocebo effect is when you believe something will harm you and then it actually does. He calls it the shadow side of belief, which is in fact fear.
The physical repercussions of the nocebo effect has been studied in several case studies. One case of testing the nocebo effect was an experiment where test subjects were told an electric current going through their head could cause headaches. No electric current was sent through their heads, but two thirds developed a headache! Another experiment involved giving subjects sugar water injections that they were told contained an allergen. Many of them had an allergic reaction in response to the treatment. (Harvard Health News).
Nocebo perpetrators are around us all of the time, through anxiety invoking media focused on fear-based stories ranging from mass shootings to the health crisis. It actually weakens your immune system to be filled with fear and anxiety. It makes me think of the childhood song, “Be careful little eyes what you see”. The idea is that what you take in has a way of taking over. What we take in through our eyes and our ears affects us on a bodily level as well as on a subconscious level, which may play out in our anxiety-riddled dreams or eventually in physical illness. Our minds and bodies are always trying to discard what is not useful or healthy for us, but it can become overloaded with too much. So let’s be careful what we feed our minds with because it has real life consequences.
It might be time to evaluate the shows, music, and other media that you have been watching, reading, and listening to. Check in with your body to sense how you feel while in the presence of various media. Even if it is a news source that you trust or a crime drama that entertains you, it may be creating anxiety within you. Try a fast from those sources, or even all media in general, for a week and check in if you feel differently in your body.
If you are having difficulty blocking out negative thoughts and images, then why not try a Healing Touch session? You may be surprised how it can help clear your mind and fill you with positive energy.
Or maybe that is just the placebo effect…still, if it works….